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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Language from Sessions 1 & 2

“I do a lot, I get it done fast, I get it done well. I stop at nothing. And yet there is a gap between what I accomplish and what I need. I have gotten very good at doing. But I am now in a place where need a chance to pause and develop more—I need language to connect the dots between what I can see, hear, feel and what I want to have dialogue about. When it comes to leadership development, I can instinctually describe what good or bad leadership may look like, or what products might develop under it, but the theory geek in me needs words and tools to be able to better inspire others to reach a similar place and give them voice.”

Those were my words, just a few months ago, as submitted in one of my Emerging Leaders application essays.  As I sat on the long train ride home to south Jersey Monday night, I reflected on just how much language I have acquired over the past two sessions, and what an impact it has had on this “theory geek” already. (Notice new terms bolded throughout this post.)

Let’s take Myers-Briggs, for instance. Before June 19th, I had really struggled with what I thought were inherent and unchangeable personality traits that put me at odds with colleagues in certain situations. I could sense it…but I didn’t know how to discuss it. Was I the only one who spoke this way, or approached a problem that way? How do you have a conversation about personality?

These differences never got in the way of relationships at work, but nevertheless I always felt like I was an odd (wo)man out in certain regards, or that my thinking was at times "wrong". Through Yael’s careful facilitation of Myers-Briggs, differences in type were brought to life, illustrated through real-world examples, and then teamed with a reveal of our individual MBTI. I, an ENTP, came to realize that I just have a different preference for how I focus attention, take in and process information, make decisions, and deal with the external world. I am not, in fact, an outsider, but just have different ways of being…and now I have language to both recognize and discuss what is happening. This has dramatically improved my working relationships and project-related work in two important ways. First, I came to find that many colleagues had also taken Myers-Briggs at some point, and were eager to share their results—and now we had a common language to celebrate those traits that make us unique and talk though differences in a new way. Second, I sharpened my lens, which I can now use to own my fortes and be more aware of potential blind spots to further improve the ways I approach problems or projects at work.

Likewise, the second session provided more language for my vocabulary. While the words may have always been there, the 360 degree feedback gave me a new way to look at words on a page and be able to start meaningful conversations at work. Case in point—I considered my ability to probe and dig when testing a solution to a problem to be a strength of mine. A few colleagues, in addition to my supervisor, identified this area as a place where I could further develop. Did we have the same words? Yes. But have we been speaking the same language? Clearly not! I am grateful for the opportunity to see gaps in thinking, and look forward to having conversations with peers and supervisors at my organization to that will help inform a self-composed plan to track progress in the areas where I need development—those I knew I needed to improve upon, and those I am hearing that I do. Thus, the 360 enabled me to feel affirmation when it came to some strengths I recognize in myself, feel humbled by seeing strengths I may not have otherwise known I have, and paved a pathway to professional growth in other areas that need a bit more nurturing or attention.

Let me conclude here. The brilliant Daniel Oscar, President & CEO for the Center for Supportive Schools and our guest speaker this month, provided many gems Monday afternoon, one of which I will close this post out with—that of a commitment device. I have been wanting to blog, both personally and for Emerging Leaders, and volunteered to write this month to test out this commitment device—a mechanism (in this case the act of volunteering) put into place to ensure you carry out something (blogging) you want to do and otherwise may not—new language yet again. I added this candid piece of information because I want to continue to blog, and by declaring it for the world to see, I am thus putting yet another piece of learning into practice that will inevitably help shape me into the professional I want to become. I look forward very much to the next session in September, all the new language and skills I will acquire, and blogging about it thereafter.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Interns - The Excitement and the Challenges.

Since my first nonprofit position nearly five years ago, I’ve considered volunteer/intern programs to be an integral part of a mission-driven organization. I have been lucky to have supervised brilliant, driven interns – high school, undergraduate, graduate students, young professions, and even individuals of my age who are interested in sustainability-focused careers.

And I’ve found that the summer is THE BEST time to harness interns’ energy and benefit from their fresh perspectives.

Summer interns can often spend full days in the office, or if virtual, commit more to video-chat meetings during the week – and this allows them to take on more substantial work. It also allows them to better understand my organization’s mission, and our day-to-day goals and challenges. 

Ultimately, I hope that they will be able to speak proudly and comprehensively about what my organization does, and describe how they directly contributed to helping us achieve our mission. I hope that I am able to easily draft recommendation letters at the end of the term because I feel confident that I can describe the interns’ strengths and professional qualifications.  

The ENTJ Supervisor   

As a middle manager, the intern program helps me to practice communicating clearly – when translating my department's needs into clear assignments with specific parameters. As an ENTJ (Myers-Briggs type: Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) – working with interns provides ideal challenges: soften my management style, listen more, be more conscious of others’ feelings, and stay consistent when providing feedback.

Other than benefiting my organization, my department, my professional goals, and the many benefits that THEY hopefully receive from the internship program, interns are also usually SO MUCH FUN. 

Some are quirky, some are thoughtful, some dream huge dreams, and nearly all expand my worldview (saving me from staring into a screen all day, from deflated creativity...). And they tend to really make the office more enjoyable.

As an ENTJ, I love people, so a challenge is to NOT be so excited to have a new cohort – to remain professional but approachable. To have fun but establish an environment where interns will be diligent and dedicated to their tasks.
I’ve learned that it’s unhelpful to blur the lines between supervisor and friend (and hope to discuss this more during future EL sessions…to gauge if this is reasonable) – that a little bit of emotional/personal distance is necessary.

Another skill I’m really working on is to better understand how to read interns. 

I take pride in developing tools (surveys, etc.) before interns begin their position, in order to try to recognize what types of project interns will enjoy, what skills they hope to hone, and how to develop a good work environment where they can be productive. 

HOWEVER – some interns are not very forthcoming. Sometimes they don’t actually know what they’re interested in…and, let me tell you, as a definitively forceful, decisive ENTJ – this can be frustrating. And the professional/personal goal list-making continues...

So, there you have it. A few of my own successes and challenges. I’m really looking forward to any reactions, stories, and feedback from my EL cohort. Until then, I hope all ELs and blog readers have a wonderful, introspective, and productive summer.   

- Brie Welzer, Nonprofit organization Green Seal, Inc. - "using science-based create a more sustainable world."